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Philadelphia is home to some of the nation’s most celebrated restaurants, but it also hosts its share of lesser-known venues that only locals know about; most never fail to impress.
Many people visit Philadelphia to see cornerstones of the U.S.'s history firsthand. As a Philadelphia native, I might be biased, but I have found the only true way to experience the rich diversity of modern-day Philadelphia is through its cuisine. Of course, it’s impossible to hit every important venue that makes up the city’s culinary culture in just a few days, but eating your way through a weekend here is a great start to your immersion.
If you’re spending a weekend in Philadelphia, these are the places you must go to eat.
4 p.m.: The foundation of Philadelphia is camaraderie; it’s the City of Brotherly Love, after all. There’s no better way to be welcomed into town than by visiting the McGillin’s Olde Ale House, the oldest-operating tavern in the city. Since 1860, McGillin’s has had a special way of making locals and visitors alike feel like they are at a neighborhood pub in Dublin chatting it up with locals over a brew. Fantastic pub fare is also offered at the tavern, including everything from traditional shepherd’s pie to their take on the famous Philly cheesesteak. Kick things off with a light Philly Pale Ale while soaking up some Irish culture.
7 p.m.: Make your way over to North Broad Street to experience perhaps the most authentic Italian cuisine in all of Philadelphia and the surrounding region. Walking into Osteria is like traveling to a Tuscan vineyard with its simple, yet rustic decor. Although the classic Osteria is fairly small, its warm environment simply begs diners to have a long, relaxing dinner of perfectly crisped thin-crust pizzas, fresh ravioli with walnut pesto, or squid ink cavatelli. Of course no Italian meal is complete without wine, and Osteria doesn’t fail to impress with its extensive list of more than 100 varieties from vineyards all over Italy.
10 a.m.: Philadelphia is home to dozens of top-notch breakfast spots, but one in particular reigns supreme: Marathon Grill. This city staple has set up shop in three different locations, but the one on 19th and Market is in the thick of the city buzz; it’s the ideal spot to chow down, people-watch, and get your day off to an energetic start. Marathon Grill has one main focus: to serve the freshest, highest-quality food possible through urban farming. Lunch and dinner fare includes everything from a free-range turkey and grain burger to the grilled salmon with ginger soy glaze, but breakfast is what they do best. This is especially true when it comes to eggs. The Philly hot spot makes it nearly impossible to choose just one plate, with its hearty breakfast quesadilla with asadero cheese and the make-your-own omelettes with dozens of filling choices. If you happen to start the day with a sweet tooth, though, the dark chocolate chip cookie dough pancakes are your go-to. They taste just as magnificent as they sound, and while it’s likely you’ll enter a sugar coma soon after your meal, you won’t regret a single bite.
1 p.m.: Visiting the Reading Terminal Market is an adventure in itself, as it’s a sort of catch-all place; walk in and you'll see cheesesteaks and ice cream juxtaposed with whole fish flying through the air. It’s one of the most impressive farmers' markets in the country, with more than 80 vendors. While there are numerous dining venues you’d be foolish to pass by without snagging a few samples, there’s one vendor that tops the list: DiNic’s. If the name sounds vaguely familiar, it's because it is home to the best sandwich in America, according to Travel Channel’s Adam Richman. The eatery specializes in fantastic roast beef, meatball, and roast pork sandwiches, all of which are made fresh daily. However, the star of DiNic’s is the hand-carved pulled pork sandwich. Its rich barbeque taste doesn’t need any additional toppings to amp up the flavor, and the simplicity of the made-to-order sandwich is a true testament to DiNic’s mastery of pork and beef. When you visit, though, you’ll probably have to wait a few extra minutes for that pulled pork sandwich, but trust me — it’s well worth the wait.
4 p.m.: It’ll take a few hours to wander around the Reading Terminal Market, and after that drool-worthy pulled pork sandwich, you’ll probably be full well into the afternoon. Rouge Ninety Eight Inc is the perfect place to unwind a bit before setting your sights on dinner. This Rittenhouse Square staple has been a go-to for both city natives and tourists alike since 1998, and it has remained one of the best dining destinations in the city. Although the restaurant is small, its popularity is due in large part to the chic ambiance and executive chef Sam Noh’s gourmet twist on traditional bistro fare. Even if you’re not staying, a simple drink here proves to be just as satisfying as the food. Dozens of beers, international wines, and cocktails are served, and after sitting at the circular bar for just a few minutes, chances are you’ll want hang out.
7:30 p.m.: Although it’s difficult to pinpoint one restaurant in Philadelphia that tops all others, it’s very possible Tinto takes that title. Located just around the corner from Rouge, this Spanish tapas bar features cuisine from Spain's Basque region. Chef Jose Garces presents a modern spin on everything from traditional charcuterie to bocadillos (sandwiches) to the freshest of fish. Its rustic decor also creates a cozy atmosphere, with the warm colors, wooden chairs, and an impressive wall of wine that houses varieties from all over Spain. Although the bill can add up quite quickly, you must try the melt-in-your-mouth Berkshire pork belly.
11:30 a.m.: Before you make your way out of the city, stop by Continental Midtown to experience the ultimate Sunday brunch. This Steven Starr restaurant instantly sets a retro vibe from the get-go, with its old-school hanging light fixtures, booths lining the windows, and hanging basket chairs on a balcony that overlooks the entire restaurant. The Continental's menu boasts fairly big portions, from crispy calamari salad with soy-ginger vinaigrette to smoked salmon hash. Even if you're dining solo, order a few different items to sample. It's nearly impossible to settle on just one dish at the Continental, and no trip to Philadelphia is complete without dining at this spot.
Cameron Simcik is the Philadelphia Travel City Editor for The Daily Meal.
Gun violence continues in Philadelphia after 11 shot in 24 hours
The city is on pace to surpass 600 shooting deaths in 2021.
11 shot in 24 hours: Philadelphia's gun violence continues
Gun violence in Philadelphia continued over the weekend after 11 people were shot in a 24-hour period, according to police.
Three people died as a result of the shootings. A 10-year-old was among those wounded, ABC Philadelphia station WPVI reported.
One of the victims was a 34-year-old man who was shot in the back of the head three times and once in the chest on Saturday around 7:30 p.m. in Philadelphia's West Oak Lane neighborhood.
Several shootings have occurred in the city in recent months. Hunting Park resident Kareem Singletary told WPVI that the shootings have gotten so bad that "people are used to it happening every day."
Four people died and another 10 were wounded after several shootings last Monday, WPVI reported.
On March 29, a man who was working on a video about gun violence was fatally shot, The Associated Press reported. The man was interviewing and filming family members of gun violence victims at a private residence in the city's Strawberry Mansion neighborhood when he was shot multiple times while getting more equipment out of his van, police said.
On March 27, seven people were wounded in a shooting outside the Golf & Social club sports bar after an altercation took place inside, police said.
Eight people were also hurt on Feb. 18 after a shooting at the SEPTA transit station on Broad Street in North Philadelphia, according to the AP.
Federal officials announced Thursday they are partnering with the Philadelphia Police Department to combat the city's gun violence epidemic with an "all hands on deck" effort.
South Street is, in my opinion, the best way to get a feel for the real Philadelphia. It’s not exactly a clean, classy place, but then again–neither is Philly. It’s on the gritty side. As the night gets later, the atmosphere gets more electric. Don’t be surprised if you pass rappers spitting fire or magicians mesmerizing crowds.
This artsy mosaic gallery and art center is a must-see. It’s well worth the $10 adult ticket price (and it’s even cheaper for kids and students), even if just for the drool-worthy Instagram posts you’ll create. It’s closed on Tuesdays and while it’s open 11:00AM-6:00, tickets do sell out fairly often–so plan ahead….
Consignment and Oddities Shops
South Street is a treasure trove of vintage shops and oddities parlors. I love popping into The Strange and Unusual to see the latest gothic pieces (even though it’s not my style at all–it’s just a fascinating place). It’s right across from Jim’s by Starbucks, and definitely worth the few extra steps. If you stop in, say hi to Justin Beaver, a taxidermied beaver who will never be for sale.
Then, pop into Bella’s Consignment right next door for luxury pieces. People constantly ask me where I found a formfitting, sparkly black gown that I wore for a photoshoot at the Plaza in NYC–and are shocked when I tell them it was a consignment find from Bella’s that cost me a little over $100.
There are tons of other vintage and consignment stores on and near South St. You could spend the whole day combing the area for amazing pieces. Try Greene St. Consignment, Retrospect Vintage, Tucker’s Digs, Moon + Arrow, and RareCo (shown above).
If you’re a cat lover, don’t forget to head over to the Kawaii Kitty Cafe on 4th and say hello to the adoptable kitties that you can play with as you sip your latte (with cat-themed latte art, of course)!
The quintessential Philly experience of eating a cheesesteak is not just hype they’re truly delicious. Tourists tend to go to Pat’s or Geno’s, but locals know that Jim’s on South Street has by far the best cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. Important note: They only take cash. You can’t go upstairs and save a seat until you have your food.
Make sure to order like a local: say “wiz wit” if you want Cheese Wiz with fried onions or “wiz witout” if you don’t want onions. Don’t make the same mistake that I made my first time at Jim’s and order provolone under the mistaken impression that fake cheese product is gross (I mean, it is, but not on a cheesesteak!). Wiz is the only way to go.
If you’re looking for a bar with character on South Street, make sure to check out Tattooed Mom. It has two floors, both of which are packed with interesting artwork and a lot of hipsters. This isn’t the place to wear your loafers and work clothes the people are part of the scenery, so show your personality.
The Cannoli has been on my list of things to make for a while now. I even bought the molds a couple of years ago and had yet to put them to use. With the strong presence of the Cannoli in Philadelphia (and the many I tried over the weekend), I thought this would be the perfect time to feature them.
Cannoli originated in Sicily and were brought to Philadelphia by Sicilian immigrants. I tried my first in the city at Reading Terminal Market, then again at The Logan Hotel. These pastries are formed by wrapping thin circles of dough around a mold and frying until golden. They are then filled with sweetened ricotta. I included the recipe for my favorite filling, the traditional ricotta with some mini chocolate chips mixed in.
I used a pasta machine to roll the shell dough into thin sheets, then used the top of a large cup (4 inch diameter) to cut out the circles. Each circle is wrapped around a mold and sealed with water or egg white to keep them from unraveling in the hot oil. They are fried just until golden (this happens quickly) and gently removed from the mold. I removed the shells by holding the mold steady with tongs and using a spoon to gently slide off the fried shell. Cover the uncooked rounds of dough during this process to keep them from drying out.
The cannoli shells can be made a day or so in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Do not fill them until right before serving. With time, the ricotta will soften the shells.
I haven’t tried this product yet, but you can also make mini cannoli with this mold from Norpro.
The 11 Best Desserts in Philly, According to JBF Rising Star Camille Cogswell
In the 28 years since the James Beard Foundation has been awarding the Rising Star Chef of the Year, only two pastry chefs have taken home the title. The first winner, in 2012, was Christina Tosi of Milk Bar, and earlier this month, Camille Cogswell became the second. The 27-year-old pastry chef from Philadelphia’s Zahav nabbed the award that goes to a chef 30 or younger who, in the foundation’s words, 𠇍isplays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.” If you’ve had the chance to dine at Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook’s landmark Israeli restaurant and taste Cogswell’s work in the form of Turkish coffee custard or malabi with ground orchid root, her noteworthy win won’t as a surprise at all.
The Asheville, North Carolina-native trained at the The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, interned at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and worked at The NoMad in New York City, but wherever she goes, the South comes along with her.
“I’m not Jewish, I haven’t been to Israel, or any of the surrounding countries, and it’s not a cuisine I’ve cooked before,” she says. 𠇋ut it’s such interesting, unique, vibrant, and exciting food, so I’m constantly inspired.”
While Cogswell says plans are in the works for a trip, she relies on her own research into ingredients and techniques, and she taps into Solomonov’s experiences with the region and foods he loves, too. 𠇋ut of course I have to find something that I connect with, and also something that [guests] will connect with, so that’s where my heritage can come into play. Being from the South, really simple, comforting desserts are what we’re all about. Every chef, no matter the cuisine they’re cooking, their experience with their own food, with their own heritage, is the lens through which they access the food they’re making.”
So Cogswell works to relate the two cuisines when making traditional or traditional-inspired Israeli desserts, like the konafi. Usually filled with cheese and soaked in syrup, the chef’s current spin has coconut cream, rhubarb, and fennel. Rhubarb, she notes happily, is common in both cuisines. “It’s fun when you find ingredients and techniques that have a correlation in both,” she says. “I try to make desserts that people here can find their own familiarity and nostalgia and connection.”
The chef, who lives in South Philly and works in Old City, has only been in Philadelphia for a little under three years, but is tasting her way through the city one neighborhood at a time. Below, find Cogswell’s favorite sweets in Philadelphia so far, from Vietnamese sesame balls to a signature milkshake. Depending on your appetite, you might need to plan two trips.
Violent weekend in Philadelphia leaves 7 dead, dozens injured
Over Mother's Day weekend, seven people were left dead and more than a dozen injured in shootings across Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA - Violence continues to plague Philadelphia. Over the weekend, seven people were left dead and more than a dozen injured in shootings across the city.
It was the scene repeated 14 times this Mother’s Day weekend, shooting after shooting. When the gunfire finally ended, seven people were dead and18 wounded.
Police say several of the weekend murders were drug-related and one was a robbery. Homicide investigators believe several might be connected to earlier shootings.
"A lot of retaliation, one murder leads to another murder that leads to another murder. It&aposs a continuing cycle of violence," Homicide Unit Captain Jason Smith said during a press conference Monday.
Anti-violence advocate Bilal Qayyum runs one of the city’s anti-violence programs. He says numbers show more than half the shootings in Philadelphia stem from arguments, disputes that need to be settled before people turn to a gun.
"When they&aposre uptight, they have no hope and they don&apost see any future this is what we&aposre seeing, part of the explosion," he explained.
Police returned to the 100 block of East Albanus Street Monday. Five people were shot, two killed just after 4 p.m. on Mother’s Day afternoon.
"We need a citywide movement around arguments, just concentrate on the whole issue of an argument," Qayyum said.
Weekend Recipe: Ballpark Pretzels
Eating fresh, homemade pretzels is particularly satisfying. This America's Test Kitchen recipe, along with their helpful tips, makes the baking process a breeze. Using bread flour is highly recommended to get that perfect soft and chewy texture. Feel free to add some brown sugar to the dough and then give the pretzels a dip in an alkaline boiling water and baking soda mixture to give it a deep, rich color. Just make sure to let the pretzels dry off before baking.
Kosher salt is sprinkled on the exterior of the pretzels, but coarse pretzel salt can be used instead. Be sure to use kosher salt in the dough. Let the dough rise for 60 minutes, and once the pretzels are shaped they require another 20-minute rise before boiling and baking.
The pretzels will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two days. To freeze pretzels, be sure to wrap them well in plastic wrap for up to one month. Make sure to thaw frozen pretzels before reheating at 300 degrees for five minutes.
Makes 12 pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 3/4 cups (20 2/3 ounces) bread flour
1/4 cup baking soda
Lightly grease large bowl. In bowl of stand mixer, combine warm water, 2 tablespoons oil, sugar, and yeast and let sit until foamy, about 3 minutes. Combine flour and 4 teaspoons salt in separate bowl. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture. Fit stand mixer with dough hook and knead on low speed until dough comes together and clears sides of bowl, 4 to 6 minutes.
Turn out dough onto lightly floured counter and knead by hand until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer dough to greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 60 minutes.
Gently press center of dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly greased counter, divide into 12 equal pieces, and cover with plastic.
Lightly flour 2 rimmed baking sheets. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll into 22-inch-long rope. Shape rope into U with 2-inch-wide bottom curve and ends facing away from you. Crisscross ropes in middle of U, then fold ends toward bottom of U. Firmly press ends into bottom curve of U 1 inch apart to form pretzel shape. Transfer pretzels to prepared sheets, knot side up, 6 pretzels per sheet. Cover pretzels loosely with plastic and let rise at room temperature until slightly puffy, about 20 minutes.
Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 425 degrees. Dissolve baking soda in 4 cups water in Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Using slotted spatula, transfer 4 pretzels, knot side down, to boiling water and cook for 30 seconds, flipping halfway through cooking. Transfer pretzels to wire rack, knot side up, and repeat with remaining 8 pretzels in 2 additional batches. Let pretzels rest for 5 minutes.
Wipe flour from sheets and grease with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle each sheet with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Transfer pretzels to prepared sheets, knot side up, 6 pretzels per sheet. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt evenly over pretzels.
Bake pretzels until mahogany brown and any yellowish color around seams has faded, 15 to 20 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Transfer pretzels to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve. These pretzels are best served warm, with mustard.
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Insider Tips for 2 Days in Philadelphia
Following this weekend itinerary will guarantee a good time in Philly. You’ll have an even better time if you follow these tips as well:
Diet later. Spending a weekend in Philadelphia is best when it includes the finer things in life, like cheesesteaks, donuts, and craft beer. Save that diet for after your trip and enjoy yourself. The quinoa will still be there when you get back.
Walk or use public transport. Philadelphia is one of the most walkable cities in the US. Getting around on foot ensures you take in the surroundings and also burn off some of those calories!
When your feet get tired, the city has a pretty solid public transportation system. For just a 2 day trip, you can rely mostly on the Philly PHLASH Downtown Loop bus, which costs just $2 per ride.
Skip the winter. I grew up between Detroit and Philly and lived in Beijing, so I’m no stranger to cold weather. If you’re traveling to the city for the first time and are looking to enjoy yourself, I recommend giving winter a hard pass. Philly is much more enjoyable when you can walk between attractions and enjoy the riverfront.
Go to a ballgame. I know I mentioned this a few times already but it’s worth repeating — Philly is a sports city. It’s a big part of the local culture and something you should experience, even if you’re not a huge fan.
Top Creme Brulée In Philadelphia
Paris Bistro is a collaboration between Chef Al Paris and restaurateur brothers Robert and Benjamin Bynum. The atmosphere is that of a 1930s French bistro with the menu to match. Think classics such as oysters, Lyonnaise salad, coq au vin, beef bourgignon and crepes. The $7 crème brulée is the perfect way to end any meal. The secret to the incredibly smooth and velvety texture is that the cream is tempered almost to the point of boiling without actually allowing it to boil. It&rsquos also essential to use fresh-scraped Madagascar beans and turbinado sugar for the burnt sugar crust. As a bonus, there&rsquos a jazz café downstairs featuring live music Thursday through Sunday, and the full dining room menu is available.
Tartes is a tiny pink bakery hidden in Old City across from the Betsy Ross house offering Death Wish Coffee and artisanal baked goods with a focus on tarts, cookies, brownies, small pies and lemon bars. The chocolate crème brulée tart is a delicious spin on the classic dessert. It features a chocolate pastry shell with a vanilla crème brulée custard baked inside. It&rsquos topped with a chocolate espresso ganache glaze and sells for $6.75. Please note that Tartes is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
As the name suggests, wine is the main focus at this Midtown Village spot. But in addition to approximately 20 wines available by the bottle and more than 60 by the glass, you&rsquoll also find a menu of seasonal dishes that range from light snacks to hearty entrees and sweet desserts. Like most of the menu, the dessert list is constantly changing. But the one item that is always available is the $7 crème brulée. When it&rsquos a classic done right, there are no bells or whistles necessary. Just a sweet, crunchy top over a creamy vanilla custard. It&rsquos served with a couple of berries for a tart contrast with every few bites.
The Little Lion is new to the Philadelphia food scene after just opening in January of 2016. The Old City spot is located in the space formerly occupied by Haru and has been renovated to preserve the charm and history of this building that dates back to the mid-1800s. The atmosphere is upscale casual and the menu consists of American comfort food with Southern influences. While crème brulée might not seem like a natural fit after a meal of fried green tomatoes with shrimp and grits, The Little Lion&rsquos $8 version of the dessert is worth a visit. Putting a twist on the classic recipe, this espresso crème brulée is made with steeped Peddler&rsquos Coffee&rsquos roasted espresso beans in the custard before baking to give it a subtle coffee flavor.
This bistro-style French restaurant from Stephen Starr offers dishes such as onion soup, escargot, beef bourguignon, roasted chicken and trout amandine. After a meal of the classics, you&rsquoll want to end with a traditional dessert. The crème brulée is priced at $10 and has an incredible creamy, custard texture. According to Pastry Chef Abigail Dahan, this is achieved through their tried and true method when it comes to the proportion of whole eggs to egg yolks. In addition, Parc only uses freshly scraped bourbon vanilla beans that are caramelized with raw sugar instead of granulated, which forms a slightly crunchier caramel-like crust. The crème brulée is baked low and slow for an hour and then sets in the refrigerator for at least six hours after that.
Top 11 Weekend Getaways From Philadelphia
Philadelphia is a historic and exciting city that can easily keep families, couples, and solo travelers entertained for a week-long vacation or even longer. However, it’s also fun to get out of the city for a weekend getaway to experience other parts of this region. Here are a few of our favorite weekend getaways from Philadelphia next time you want a change of pace or to satisfy your thirst for adventure.
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The Poconos, Pennsylvania
You can get to the Poconos from Philadelphia in about two and a half hours, and this is a prime place to beat the city’s summer heat. Come here for lodge stays, farm-to-table meals, and beautiful mountain views. The Poconos region also offers wine tastings, waterfall hikes, and cozy porches to help you forget about the stresses of city life.
Lake Placid, New York
The Lake Placid area of New York is also a great place to get away for the weekend if you live in or are visiting Philadelphia for a while. Explore the large Adirondack Park, which has hosted Olympic Games events, and stay in warm and cozy accommodations at the Lake Placid Lodge. The drive to get to Lake Placid from Philadelphia is just a little over six hours.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
The Shenandoah National Park of Virginia is about three and a half hours from Philadelphia, making it the perfect distance for an outdoorsy weekend getaway. This is an epic place to get away during the fall season because of the colorful leaves on all the trees here.
Roanoke, West Virginia
Most people think of the state of Virginia when they hear the name Roanoke, but there is a Roanoke in West Virginia too that’s about six hours from Philadelphia. This is home to the Stonewall Resort and near the Civil War Discovery Trail, as well as some great shopping for local handmade crafts and works of art. Visit the wineries in this region, snoot sporting clays, ride specialty trains with Mountain Rail Adventures, and take the kids to the Splash Zone Water Park in the summer. The Stonewall Resort itself is a premier destination for golfing, boating spa treatments, and outdoor recreation.
The Pennsylvania town of Strasburg offers a real Lancaster County experience where you can step back in time with historic trains, an Amish buggy ride, and cozy bed and breakfasts. Come here for the weekend to learn about how Amish farms operate, eat delicious home-cooked food, and slow down the pace of life on the quiet backroads with gently rolling hills. It’s less than an hour and a half from Philadelphia to Strasburg, making this weekend getaway destination perfect if you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the car.
The Adirondacks, New York
The Adirondacks are a beloved East Coast destination and a great weekend trip from Philadelphia. It takes less than six hours to get here, but once you arrive, you’ll understand why it’s well worth the drive. The region is colorful in the fall, pleasant in the spring and summer, and a winter wonderland when the snow falls and the temperatures drop. Come here for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or even winter camping if you’re feeling brave. Adirondack maple syrup is perfect for sampling in the spring, the 46 High Peaks are perfect for summer hikes, and scenic drives are very popular in the fall season. When you visit the Adirondacks from Philadelphia, don’t miss out on the local wine and craft beer scenes, as well as the walking tours and museums to learn about the region.